After aborting multiple scheduled launches this week for the Artemis I, NASA may delay liftoff until at least next month.
Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA’s Artemis launch director, called off off the Artemis I launch on Saturday at 11:17 a.m., according to NASA. The most recent nix came after teams encountered a hydrogen leak while loading propellant into the rocket. The Aug. 29 attempt was scrubbed after a series of problems, including unexplained engine issues.
While NASA tried to reseat a seal and move ahead with a launch, they could not immediately fix the issue. Engineers attempted to repair the rocket in place three times before the launch was scrubbed.
The difficulty led engineers to forego another early September launch.
“Over the next several days, teams will establish access to the area of the leak at Launch Pad 39B, and in parallel conduct a schedule assessment to provide additional data that will inform a decision on whether to perform work to replace a seal either at the pad, where it can be tested under cryogenic conditions, or inside the Vehicle Assembly Building,” reads NASA’s official Artemis blog.
NASA now intends to roll the 322-foot rocket back to the VAB and to reset all systems. NASA requirements and launch window schedules suggests it will take at least 25 days to schedule the rocket for another launch.
“We’ll go when it’s ready,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, a former U.S. Senator. “We don’t go until then, and especially now on a test flight, because we are going to stress this and test it and test that heat shield and make sure it’s right before we put four humans up on the top of it.”
Members of Florida’s congressional delegation encouraged patience with the public. The Artemis mission ultimately aims to send astronauts back to the moon for the first time in decades, and to provide a step from there to manned missions to Mars.
“We headed out to the Cape for NASA Artemis again this morning,” tweeted Rep. Darren Soto on Saturday. “Sadly, the launch was scrubbed due to faulty seal impeding fueling. We will try again in October. As always, safety first! The path back to the moon, Mars and beyond will test our will. We will continue to move forward!”
NASA’s Artemis blog explained today’s problem this way: “During today’s launch attempt, engineers saw a leak in a cavity between the ground side and rocket side plates surrounding an 8-inch line used to fill and drain liquid hydrogen from the SLS rocket. Three attempts at reseating the seal were unsuccessful. While in an early phase of hydrogen loading operations called chilldown, when launch controllers cool down the lines and propulsion system prior to flowing super cold liquid hydrogen into the rocket’s tank at minus 423 degrees F, an inadvertent command was sent that temporarily raised the pressure in the system. While the rocket remained safe and it is too early to tell whether the bump in pressurization contributed to the cause of the leaky seal, engineers are examining the issue.”
–Jacob Ogles, Florida Politics, and FlaglerLive